Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Favorites

I guess, since this is a wine blog, I need to do some wine and food-related stuff regarding favorites of 2009. These are just some of my best moments of the last year or so:

Favorite Glass of Wine- Drinking Gruet Demi-Sec, and eating Foie Gras on crackers in a hotel room at the Moonrise on my anniversary with my beautiful bride.

Favorite Bottle of Wine- 2004 Coulee de Serrant that I was able to get on the cheap at work. It's weird stuff, but a stunning wine.

Favorite Bite of Food- the quail egg, topped with truffles and duck egg hollandaise at the Carnivorale Dinner

Favorite dinner- Getting multiple apps at Niche and at Sidney St. Cafe on my birthday, despite the deluge of rain

Favorite Bad Dinner- the "King Crab Leg" incident at the Lumiere- it just makes me laugh.

Favorite newly discovered restaurant- Nachomama's.

Favorite Restaurant- Niche

Favorite new hangout, where everyone knows your name- 33 wine bar

Favorite place to go to be shocked- Atomic Cowboy

Favorite good idea, that didn't work out as planned- Mad Men night at Eclipse

Favorite food issue that I controlled- not drinking regular soda for all of 2009

Favorite "wrong time of year" meal- making Cassoulet in the middle of the summer, when it was crazy hot outside, for Julia Child's birthday

Favorite new foodie book- What to drink with what you eat

Favorite funny moment- Getting griped at for bringing Doritos to the Slow Food luncheon

Favorite guilty pleasure- Five Guys Cheeseburgers

New favorite "layup" dinner- Beef Bourguignon

Favorite Food and Wine Pairing that I did- Pride Syrah with Barbecue at Christmas

Favorite dinner with people I love- Eating by the ocean in Mexico for my sister's birthday.

Favorite new cocktail name- Donde Estan mis Pantalones

Favorite new cocktail- This changes everytime I go into Taste by Niche, and try something new.

Favorite old-school cocktail- Manhattan

Favorite beer- Left Hand Milk Stout

Favorite new website- :)

Favorite new industry-related tv show- Three Sheets

Favorite show that I wish they made more of- No Reservations

That's all folks. Here's to an even better 2010. Raise a glass tonight, have fun, be careful, come back alive.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009, 2010

It would appear that in the blogosphere, most people are doing recaps of the last year and decade. The decade recap would take too long- so the highlights are that, since 2000 I have moved from Kansas to California to Arkansas to Texas, studied under a pastor for a year, met the right girl, got married, got a dog, moved to Boston, got another dog, switched careers, moved to Saint Louis, bought a house, started a consulting company, and am now sitting here. My family has seen the birth of 4 nieces and 1 nephew, my dad has been laid off twice and beat cancer, by brother (through the grace of God) defeated alcoholism, got married, and moved. My sister got married, moved twice, and is now training for a triathalon. My mom started a company and still makes the best sausage/egg casserole out there. Whew.

The funny thing about 2009 is that not a whole ton happened for us. Sure, I got my CSW and Certified Sommelier designations, but the biggest thing that happened in our home was that my wife got a new job. She spent 5 years working in retail, and almost no holidays at home. In the summer, she got a job at a logistics company and now works M-F, 7-4 with holidays off. It's a great thing!

The restaurant scene in STL has seen the closing of Pitted Olive, The changeover of the Shaved Duck, and the opening of Niche Taste bar, and Brasserie. We have also seen Pi storm onto the scene, whipping the collective pizza tails of most other restaurants. 33 turned everything on it's head by starting the Dorm Room Dinner series. The stalwarts have stayed the same- Sidney St, Monarch, Harvest, Frazers, etc have all continued to pump out great food for their pricepoints.

All that being said, I'm excited about 2010. Our pastor challenged us to summarize what we think the next year will mean in one word. My word is "Change", and not in the Obama sense. I mean that I want to change the way I view my marriage, health, job, and friends. I want this to be a positive thing. I want to be a thinner, healthier, more loving, less stressed person one year from now.

That all starts on Monday. Until then, it's enjoying a great steak tonight, some Champagne tomorrow, and watching football on Friday.

Did you buy your NYE bubbly yet? You had better hurry!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Thoughts on the Holidays, etc...

It's amazing to me that it's almost 2010. Didn't Arthur C. Clarke say that we were supposed to be running around in spaceships and stuff by then? I don't have a spaceship, or one of those silver jumpsuits that you are supposed to wear on them. Oh well.

So, Christmas was last week, in case you didn't notice. My wife and I flew to Houston, and I noticed a few things:

-Southwest airlines, although they are the cheapest and let your bags fly free, is truly the Cattle Car of the industry. I have never been so crowded and uncomfortable on a flight. Being a dude with broad shoulders, those seats are really horrible.

-Sometimes a bottle of Pinot Noir that was bought at a grocery store tastes just fine with a steak, especially if everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves.

-I'm constantly humbled at how much my In-laws really care for us, and want us to be comfortable and happy.

-I got the chance to see an old friend that is going through some struggles. He brought along his two daughters, whom are very sweet. I got to learn how to speak "parent code" very quickly. Example- we went to a liquor store, so I could grab a couple of bottles of wine for dinner that night. I thought they would stay in the car, but they wanted to come in. "What is a liquor store?" one daughter asked. "It's kind of like a candy store, for adults" was the reply.

-We went to a Delbert McClinton concert (look up his song "Rita Goes Away"- it's classic). Instead of having an opening band, they showed a 40 minute documentary about harmonicas. Now, if I would have been watching this on the History Channel, I would have totally been engrossed. However, I was getting ready for a country and blues concert. Cool documentary, bad timing.

-There's a place called Downing Street Pub in Houston- look it up. This is the type of place that STL needs! Please, someone loan me a million dollars, so I can get one going!

-Looking at my calendar, I realized that I have something scheduled every night this week, until Saturday. One of these parties just might not make the cut.

-If you read this, you probably like wine. Go buy some bubbly wine to open on New Years. It doesn't have to be expensive. Just throw it in the fridge, pop it at midnight, and help me bring in a year that is going to be fantastic. 2010 is the year when the recession ends, I get skinnier, my customers buy a lot of great wine from me, we actually travel some of the places we always say we are going to, and I learn to chill a bit.

-How far into 2010 is it appropriate to say "Happy New Year"? I think only a week or so, but I have gotten it in February before.

That's all I got for today. This week is funny, as pretty much all wholesalers are done selling for the year, and most retailers are done buying. Every year, I have bosses that push hard for sales the last week of the year. They rarely materialize.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Holiday Spirit(s)

My two families are really interesting, especially when it comes to the differences in how we spend the holidays. This is even more evident when it comes to how wine is involved with each family. For example, we just spent the weekend in KC with my parents, my grandmother, my brother and sister, and their respective families. On Saturday evening, by dad looked over at me, and said "Well, I guess we should go ahead and pick out the wine for dinner"- we were eating in an hour and a half, and we were going to have Barbecue. He then said "Pick out whatever you want- the cellar is yours". In the past, this would not have been a very exciting proposition. Five years ago, my parents had the greatest collection of cheap, crappy wine that I have ever seen. Since then (and since I have started selling wine professionally), they have changed their tastes, and their price point. Now my dad has a collection of about 130 bottles, 99% of which I would be more than glad to open on any given day. For appetizers, I chose a bottle of Oregon Pinot Gris for my mom, as that is just about all she will drink, and a bottle of Fisher Unity Napa cab for me and dad. My brother doesn't drink, and my sister only likes moscato when it comes to wine. With dinner, to match the spicy barbecue, I grabbed a Pride Syrah. It matched perfectly, and we were tempted to open another bottle. Later in the evening, my dad said "how about an apertif"? I corrected him, called it a digestif, and poured him some limoncello, myself some Navan (he loves that stuff, and always has some on hand- it's not bad at the end of the night), and some Moscato for the ladies. It was a pleasant way to add wine to a meal that you normally wouldn't care about wine with. The point to all of this is that my dad and I have something in common that we can talk about in wine- he is interested in learning, even if the rest of my family doesn't give a rip.

My in-laws are a different story. Even when they lived in Monterey, CA they didn't care much about the wine industry. They have a little bit on hand, and it's a mixture of "okay" and "decent". Because they focus on other things when it comes to entertaining (they cook really well), they don't spend much energy or money on their in-house wines. They will each have maybe a glass with dinner, and that's about it. After dinner drinks are all but non-existant there. This isn't a bad thing, it's just how they are. In fact, I don't even know if they will have a Christmas tree, whereas my mom has one that looks like it came straight out of Martha Stewart Living.

Neither approach is better or worse, just different.

Have a Merry Christmas- don't stress too much, and drink something good.

I'll be having Champagne, whether anyone drinks it with me or not.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Thoughts on the weekend...

This weekend was pretty dang busy. I worked as a sommelier at a private dinner on Friday night, travelled to KC on Saturday, then back home on Sunday. Some thoughts on the weekend:

-There is a saying that "The Lord works in mysterious ways". I found this out, again, over the weekend in reference to my little sister. Now, a lot of you who know me know that I'm a Christian, and that I'm fairly involved with my church. I rarely bring religious-type stuff up on this blog, since I recognize that I have followers that don't follow the same views that I have. I simply don't want people to think "oh cool, a blog about wine", and then I whack them with religion. These sort of bait-and-switch tactics aren't my style, so I don't do them. That being said, if you don't care to hear my view on this particular subject, you might want to skip to the next paragraph, where there is wine-related matter. Some of you also know that I have a sister that lives in the Wichita area. She is a stay at home mother with three little girls, and my brother in law is a high school teacher and basketball coach. To say that they are on a limited budget is putting it mildly. Frankly, I have no idea how they even survive. Last week, I was talking to her on the phone, and she lamented about how her minivan was broken again, and had now idea how they would be able to afford a new car. I would have loved to help her, but I'm a bit strapped for greenbacks myself these days. That night, a friend of theirs called, and said that they were bringing pizza over for dinner. They showed up with a bunch of people, and up into their driveway rolled a beautiful, slightly used Tahoe. Essentially, some friends of theirs from their church, and from a high-school ministry that they are involved in all pitched in and bought my sister's family the car, as well as money for insurance and taxes. Some might say that it's a really neat story about the generosity of others. I agree, but I also think it was God providing something that my sister desperately needed.

-Pride Syrah is a fantastic wine, and it goes great with Barbeque!

-Sometimes, Grandma gifts aren't the most useful, but they are the best.

-Working a private dinner for a bunch of drunk Democrats, when you are a Republican, can actually be a lot of fun.

-My wife said she was in her "happy place" last night- curled up on the couch with a comfy blanket and our dogs, a stomach full of Chinese takeout, napping while football played on tv. I liked that.

-Do they ever really sell the statues of dragons, rattlesnakes, fairys, etc that are at truckstops?

-I might have recommended it before, but go out and get "What to Drink With What You Eat". It's a fantastic book about food and beverage pairing.

-Evidently, dogs don't like Scope.

-I was tempted to get a bulldog over the weekend, buy my neighbors would have been pissed.

That's all folks. Blogging will be spotty this week, with travelling, Christmas, and everything else going on. If I don't see or talk to you, then have a very Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 18, 2009

How we met

For some reason, I have been telling the story of how I met my wife a lot lately, so I figured I would tell it here as well. In 2000, I moved to Denton , TX to study under a pastor for a year. During that time, a friend of mine was working with the college ministry at the church. He was taking a group of college kids to do a mission trip in Kentucky, building a house for Habitat for Humanity. Because I was fresh off my stint as a mountain guide, I had a lot of experience doing teambuilding activities with groups. My buddy asked me to do that with his group of college students. While doing a "trust fall", I noticed a cute girl that was crying because she was scared of heights, and the activity wasn't exactly in her wheelhouse. I mentioned later to my friend that I thought she was cute. "She's too young for you" was his reply. At the time, I was 23 and she was 19.
I didn't really think much else about that girl for a few months. That summer, I moved into a duplex with some friends. I had heard a rumor that there were "hot college chicks" that lived in the other half of the building. Being curious if this was true or not, I grabbed an icecream cone, walked next door, and knocked on the door. Lo and behold, the cute girl from the teambuilding exercise opened the door. She may not say this, but I was smitten.
We started dating shortly afterwards, were engaged 7 months later, and married in May of 2003.

I literally married the "Girl Next Door". I wonder if it was my sparkling personality, or the fact that I liked icecream?

Go fall in love this weekend by drinking Tikal "Amorio". It is a big, bold, delicious malbec from Argentina. Your retail cost should be roughly $30.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

French Wine 201- Cotes de Nuits

Last week, we started looking at the areas included in Burgundy, and discussed Chablis. Moving South, we now hit what is arguably one of the most important wine producing regions in the world- the Cotes d'Or. The word "Cotes" loosely translated means "slope", and this aptly describes the "Slope of Gold" where these fantastic wines come from. The Cotes d'Or is broken into two smaller sections, Cotes de Nuits, and Cotes de Beaune. We will be looking at Cotes de Nuits briefly today, and the Cotes de Beaune next week.
When looking at the Cotes de Nuits, the first thing to notice is that it produces nearly exclusively red wines. One easy way to remember this is that "nuits" can mean "dark"- thus, it makes dark wine. The wines that come out of this region are absolutely stunning. They have a range of flavors varying from dusty cherry to licorice to tobacco to barnyard. It really is amazing to see how the wines from individual vineyards can all be made of Pinot Noir grapes, yet taste so vastly different. Since we are just looking briefly at the area, we will just mention the major ones. The easiest way to tell how good of a wine a vineyard will produce is to look at where it lies on the hillside. Essentially, the vineyards toward the top of the slope are better, as they have much more drainable soil and sun contact. Most of these vineyards are first recognized by the villages that they are near. The villages with Grand Cru vineyards are:
Morey-St. Denis
Flagey-Echezeaux (which contains the remarkable Echezeaux vineyard)
Vosne-Romanee (which contains the Romanee-Conti vineyard, often one of the most expensive wines in the world)

Remember that a Village wine often has a hyphen in the name, whereas a Grand Cru wine sometimes will, sometimes not. It's confusing trying to know that a Gevrey-Chambertin is a village, and that Charmes-Chambertin is a vineyard, I know. At least you don't have to memorize it for a test!

So, there you have it- a brief overview of some of the top red wines you can possibly buy. Go buy one, and toast on Christmas!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One big rock

I just had to put this on here- it has nothing to do with wine. This is a picture of a gift that one of my wife's co-workers received from a supplier that likes him. I don't even know what I would say if someone gave this to me, other than "Wow, I hadn't ever thought of asking for one of these before."
If you were thinking of giving one of these to me for Christmas, ummm...Don't.

Port Cider

A quick way to warm you up in this holiday season:

Port Cider

To make this, simply take a 1/2 gallon jug of your favorite apple cider, and put it in a sauce pan. Add as little or as much of port (don't go expensive, the cheap stuff is fine) as you want- I like a pretty stout cider, so I use probably 2-3 cups. Then add a couple cinnamon sticks, and sprinkle some nugmeg over it. Warm the concoction up, and serve in mugs.

This also goes well in a crock pot or a percolator (sp?) for a party.

Cheers, and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Now on twitter

I'm now on twitter:
I'm just figuring out how to work this thing, so be patient

Atomic Cowboy

I want to briefly thank the folks over at Atomic Cowboy for their generosity. I have gotten to know the ownership and staff of this place over the last couple of years, and I really like this place. If you haven't ever been there, you should check it out. At first, the vibe can be a bit intimidating. Don't let the tattoos and piercings scare you, though. Think a mixture of just about every section of population- businessmen, construction workers, hipsters, pimps, transvestites, preachers, and wine sales reps- all in a place where the food is good, the drinks are great.

Two years running, they have invited us to their Christmas party. The food was fantastic (we ate way too much), there was an open bar, and everyone is really cool there.

So, everyone who reads this from the Saint Louis area, please say to yourself "I'm going to head over to Atomic Cowboy for a drink and bite to eat sometime soon", then keep true to your word.

That's all I got- I'm grumpy today.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend...

This weekend was full of helping people in need, whether it was a friend having a fight with his wife, a low-income family in need of affordable Christmas presents, or a buddy meeting up with me when I needed to get out of the house. My random thoughts are as follows:

-The juke box at the Bleeding Deacon is amazing. Where else can you get Hank Williams Sr, GnR, Snoop Dogg, and the Smiths all in one place?

-Sometimes, if a friend is a bit down, all they really need is a well cooked steak, a glass of really good red wine, and to laugh until they snort at a stand-up comedian.

-Most people's relationships (including my own) would go so much better if we would just quit being selfish, and start being nice.

-We have crafted a drink called the "Donde estan mis pantalones", and it is delicious- Patron Cafe XO, Creme de Cocoa, and egg nog. Perfect for the holidays.

-My church does an annual event called Affordable Christmas, where low income families can buy Christmas gifts for their kids at drastically reduced prices. It's amazing the look on these people's faces when they realize they can give their kid something really nice as a gift. We were able to help over 170 families gift gifts to 560 kids. That deserves a great big "Cheers"!!!

-It is so nice to be at a dinner party where nobody gets out of control, the food is fantastic, the wine tastes good, and everyone is laughing. We were part of that combination on Saturday, and it was great!

-7 women making cookies in my kitchen does not make for an easy time watching the football game. I would like to thank Syberg's for being there when I needed an escape route.

-I'm done planning any more activities from now until New Years- too many dots on my calendar, when I look at the month setting. If it doesn't pay, then I'm not putting it in there!

-A note to Matt Cassel- Four interceptions and 0 touchdown passes makes it hard to win a game.

Today's wine recommendation- Guigal Rose. Yeah, that's right, I'm recommending rose during the middle of winter. We had some with smoked salmon on Saturday, and it was a killer combination. Plus, you can get the bottle for around $11 retail.


Friday, December 11, 2009


So this morning I'm waiting for the U Verse guy to show up, and simply move my modem from upstairs to downstairs. One would think they could give me a more accurate timeframe than "From 8-12" as to when they will arrive. I'm a prisoner in my own home, until he gets here. The best part- I'm paying for it!

It does however give me a few minutes with which I can make up for the missed French Class yesterday. Since we are talking Burgundy (by the way, notice the spelling difference- burgAndy is a color), I think we should move North to South. This puts us in Chablis. This wonderful area is the second most northern wine making region in France (Champagne is the first), and is part of the Burgundy area. It is located about 100 miles North of the rest of Burgundy, and surrounds the town of Chablis. Nearly all of the wine produced here is white, and as we learned last week, this means it is made from the Chardonnay grape. When you are blind-tasting a Chablis, the way you can tell where it is from is the distinct "flintiness" of the wine. This comes from the fact that the area has a type of soil called Kimmeridgean Soil, basically chalk, limestone, and crushed up fossilized seashells. The wines are normally produced in either large, old oak barrels that impart very little oakiness to the wines, or stainless steel. Some modern winemakers are starting to use a bit more oak, much to the chagrin of the traditionalists.

Chablis is broken into AOC wines, labelled "Appellation Chablis Controlee" on the bottle, and then into Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards. The 7 grand crus are: Bougros, Les Preuses, Vaudesir, Grenouilles, Valmur, Les Clos, and Blanchots. These make up less than 3% of the wines produced in Chablis, but are stunning examples of Chardonnay. If you are looking for Chablis, your options will likely be limited in the Midwest. If you can find it, try La Chablisienne Petite Chablis (from a Junior appellation in the area)- it's good and inexpensive.

Please note that the big jugs of wine from california labelled "Chablis" have nothing to do with the real thing- those wines are gross, and should only be used to wash cats.

This weekend, try a dessert drink that we dubbed "Donde Estan Mis Pantalones"- use 1 measure of Patron Cafe, 1/2 measure creme de coco, and either egg nog or whole milk to top it off (chocolate milk works fine, too). Es muy bueno.

Have a great weekend,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

French Class Cancelled

Because it is so freaking cold, I'm running behind today. I will post about Chablis tomorrow.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fat Americans

I'm not a small guy. Anyone who has ever met me knows this. However, this last weekend, I had an experience that made me feel skinny. My wife and I were given free passes to eat at the Kitchen buffet at the Lumiere Casino. This, I must say, was quite the experience. The buffet costs $28 per person, which seems pretty ludicrous. The reason for the steep price became evident as soon as we walked in. There was a huge line of huge people all clamoring for something around a corner. What was this pot of gold that everyone wanted a piece of? Crab Legs. King Crab Legs.

I'm not kidding when I say that it was all-you-can-eat crab leg night, and boy were the people at the Kitchen Buffet excited! There were probably anywhere between 18 and 30 people in line for these things at any given time. The quantity of people wasn't the only thing that surprised me- I was shocked by how many of these things people were taking. I saw people literally with arm loads of the 2 foot long legs, walking briskly back to their tables, acting like they were foraging before going into hibernation for the winter. The shock was compounded even further when I saw one lady with a freaking soup bowl- not a ramekin- a SOUP BOWL full of butter to slosh over her legs (her crab legs, although to get out of those pants, she may have needed the butter on her real legs as well).

The wifey and I tried a couple of the legs- they were overcooked, underseasoned, and generally pretty bad. Definitely not good enough to cause the hysteria in the room. We looked around the room and noticed that there was literally one person in the room that could be described as "fit" or "thin". He was eating sushi. Everyone else was somewhere between "big boned" and "disgustingly obese".

This brings me to a bit of an emotional point- in the year 2010, I have made it my goal to focus on my own health and fitness. 2009 was my year to get my wine career to the next level, which I accomplished by earning my CSW and my Certified Sommelier degrees, starting a blog, and starting a wine consultation company. I will keep writing Sippin' Saint Louis, because I love this industry, and I love teaching people about these things. I will also probably start another blog to track my health progress over the next year. I want to do this thing right- not some "Greatest Loser" contest, where I lose a bunch of weight, just about kill myself over the course of 30 days, and gain it all back. Instead, I just want to focus more on my caloric intake, the origins of what I consume, and a consistent exercise plan.

I hope some of you all care enough about me to be supportive. The rest of you all, no worries, I will still be around, having a glass of wine or two.


Monday, December 7, 2009

The Blind Tasting

Because I'm in the wine industry, I have been fortunate to meet and become friends with a number of people that are also very interested in learning about wine. This has lead to some really fun nights. I am part of a certain group that likes to get together once a month, and blind-tastes wine. What is blind tasting? It is simply tasting wine that you don't know what it is, and trying to, out of your own past experiences, ascertain what the wine is. Some people get all geeked out over single-blind versus double-blind. Single blind is where you know the varietal (say cabernet), but don't know anything else about the wine. Double-blind is where you don't know anything about it. The group that I'm in does both.

Here's how we do it-
we pick a night (usually a weekend, so people can sleep in the next day if they over-indulge), and a place. The host picks the theme. This last weekend, it was to bring any white you wanted, and a bottle of something cabernet-based. We then show up with the bottles covered with either foil or newspaper, and start pouring. The goal is to guess the varietal, country of origin, and vintage of each wine. It really is amazing how much stuff you taste in a wine when you are really paying attention. The whole thing is all in good fun. What I like about this group is that people bring cool, interesting things, and don't necessarily try to "one up" each other by bringing the biggest, baddest, most expensive wines. Don't get me wrong, cool stuff is definitely poured- we had 1975 and 1982 Bordeaux, Pride, Caymus, a wine from Lebanon, White Burgundy, White Hermitage, and all kinds of other amazing wines. I even tried to sneak a two-buck-chuck in there, to see what happened. Needless to say, it didn't win the "wine of the night" prize. However, the group didn't get mad- they laughed at it.

So, if you want a really simple, inexpensive party idea, give this a shot. It's a lot of fun, and you really do learn a lot about what you like and don't like regarding wine.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Things I love

My wife took the day off of work today, and I'm working from home. Since she was around, I asked her what to blog about today. Her response was "If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?" That would be a very short post, consisting of two words: French Fries. Instead, I'm just going to list some of the things that I love. Hopefully this will give you a little bit of insight into this whacked out brain of mine.

Things I love:

My wife (obviously)
My Friends/Family
A hot cup of coffee on a blustery cold morning
A perfectly cooked steak with fries and a great bottle of red wine
The feel of freshly washed sheets when they are cold, and you lay down in them
Cars that accelerate much faster than necessary
Sunrises in the mountains
A table full of people all eating, laughing, and not caring about a thing in the world
Being right
When ballpoint pens work on the first try
Hot, fresh, soft chocolate chip cookies
Hot tubs
Being able to shoot a handgun more accurately than most people
Children's laughter
The smell of a new pair of shoes
Foie Gras, Truffles, and most other foods that are bad for you
Finishing a book
Really nice watches
Seeing someone else be successful, and realizing that I'm truly not jealous of them
Playing poker
Playing Pool
Getting my hair washed after a haircut
Finding a parking space right in front
Movies where they don't give the whole thing away in the trailer
Bands that look like they're having fun on stage
Coming home to a clean house
The fact that you can turn the hot water off in the shower, and hot water will still come out of the shower head for a couple of seconds before turning cold.

What do you love?


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Number 100- the beginning of Burgundy

Since this is my 100th post, I figured it had better have some substance to it. Also, it just happens to be Thursday, when I typically write about a particular wine region of the world. These both led me to talk on one of the most complicated subjects in the wine world- Burgundy.

I'm just going to give you the basics today. Over the next several Thursdays, I will go deeper- we will never get to the bottom of the subject, as you could fill a library with the amount of information in the world about Burgundy. Nonetheless, here we go-

Most wine geeks, if you ask them what wine they would choose to drink it only for the rest of their lives, would most likely say Burgundy. The romantic notion of palacial domaines, and $1000 bottles of red wine evoke emotion in anyone that is somewhat of a wine fan. In order to understand why simply the notion of Burgundy will bring a mist to the eye of a collector, one must understand the intricacies of the area.

In its simplest form, Burgundy is about two grapes, and the soil. All of the great red wines from the area are made from Pinot Noir, and all of the great white wines are made from Chardonnay. As for the soil, there is very little manipulation in the wines. Most of the wine makers simply make the wine, and let the terroir speak for itself.
Geography-wise, Burgundy is located on the eastern side of France, and is comprised of five major regions- Chablis, Cote d'Or, Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais, and Beaujolais. I will address each of these regions in future weeks individually.
Wines in each of these regions are broken into increasingly smaller categories:

Bourgogne- Wines made from grapes sourced from anywhere in Burgundy

Villages- Wines made from the vineyards in and around a specific village

Premier Cru- Wines from a specific, very well rated vineyard

Grand Cru- Wines from the top rated vineyards in Burgundy

The ownership of the Domaines in the area is a bit different than in other areas of France. In Bordeaux, a Chateau consists essentially of the facility, and the vineyards around it. In Burgundy, the Domaine consists of small plots of several different vineyards that they own- most not directly around the actual facility. This is further complicated by the Napoleanic Code, which states that the children of a vineyard owner all inherit an equal portion of the vineyard. You can see how, after multiple generations, the vineyards get broken up into smaller and smaller portions- each person owning a few rows of vines. One example of this is the Clos de Vougeot- which has about 125 acres, owned by over 80 people. Each of these owners will make a wine called "Clos de Vougeot", but the quality and price can vary wildly.

Confused yet? Don't worry, it gets worse. For example, if you look at the label of a wine, how are you supposed to know if it is a Village, Premier Cru, or Grand Cru wine? Most of the time, it will say 1er cru, or grand cru on the label. That's your biggest hint. If it doesn't, look at the name. If there is a hyphen, then it's likely a Village wine. For example, the village of Chambolle-Musigny used to be called Chambolle, until they noticed that people were buying wine from their famous Le Musigny vineyard. At that time, they adopted the name of the vineyard, and hyphenated it. If a wine has a "le" or a "la" on it, it is likely a Premier or Grand Cru.

Enough confusion for today. Go out, and just start looking at Burgundy labels. They are really cool, and you will eventually start getting the hang of deciphering them.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ninja Assassin

Due to lack of time, energy, and inspiration, this is going to be short.

Happy 30th Birthday to my dear friend Scott- the "guys" are getting together tonight to cook steaks, potatoes, creamed spinach, and a great bottle of red wine- I'm thinking Fisher Unity Cabernet, but time will tell. We will follow that by taking Scott to see the cinematic genius of Ninja Assassin. Nice.

Tonight we feast, tomorrow we learn more about French wine.

Cheers to all my readers- thank you again for your devotion!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Something to pair Champagne with

I found this recipe from the 19th century in England, and thought it would be something for a local chef (Gerard? Josh? Nashan?) to try:

The Monster Egg

Bread a dozen or two of eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. Tie the yolks in a pig's bladder, boil them hard, and remove them. In a larger pig's bladder, place the whites. Into the midst (Note- I love that the recipe uses the word "midst") of the whites, place the set yolks and tie the bladder tight. Boil the whole until the whites harden and then remove from the water. Serve the Monster Egg on a bed of spinach.

Sounds easy enough. Now someone cook the thing up, lets pop open some champagne and some orange juice, and go to town. I'll bring the bacon.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Post Thanksgiving Thoughts...

It has been a few days since my last blog, and quite a bit has happened. We traveled to Kansas to spend some time with my family, and see my folk's beautiful new home. During this trip, I realized how quickly things change, and how other things stay exactly the same. For example, the last time I saw my nephew, he was barely crawling. Now, he's stumbling around like a little guy should. My nieces, that were just little rug rats in March when we went to Mexico have turned into little....people. Weird. In the "things stay the same" department, my grandmother still proclaims between entrees and dessert at Thanksgiving, "my goodness, it takes us so long to cook all this food, and we eat it so fast!" I'm not kidding, you could literally set the international atomic clock by it!

Changes- my brother, who doesn't drink, now reads my blog that focuses on wine.

Things stay the same- my father still refuses to watch KU Basketball, because it makes him "nervous and irritable."

Changes- we finally have enough ornaments to cover our entire tree (our first year of marriage, our angel was made from a Miller Lite can, and we filled the tree in with candy canes).

Things stay the same- one of my favorite moments of the year is, after I have hauled all of our decorations up from the basement and unpacked all of them, sitting back with a glass of champagne and watching my beautiful bride put ornaments on the tree.

This was also a weekend of ups and downs emotion wise- I got two completely unsolicited but needed compliments from friends, but I also found out that another dear friend is getting a divorce. One friend is launching out into an exciting new career, and another is spending a lonely holiday contemplating his mistakes.

I will reiterate what I said that I'm thankful for- I have a wonderful wife that supports me, and I'm really happy with the life that we have set up here in Saint Louis.
I must add that I am so happy to have found a great circle of friends that we can share the holidays with, and probably drink some good wine!

Enjoy the weather, folks. Winter is here.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quick French Lesson- the Right Bank

A couple of weeks ago, I covered the left bank wines of Bordeaux. Today, we will be looking at the "right bank"- the area to the north and east of the Gironde river, more specifically the regions of St. Emilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac. These areas are sort of like the Sonoma to California's Napa- it is more of the "workingman's wine" in Bordeaux. The soil is one of the important aspects in this area. Whereas in the left bank, the soil is mainly gravel, this area contains mainly clay. In other areas of the world, clay-based soil gives the vines "wet feet" by not allowing drainage. However, here the slope of the vineyards allows fantastic drainage, and is perfect for the area's main two grapes- Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
St. Emilion is one of the areas that is home to some of the most wonderful Cabernet Franc-based wines in the world. The most famous of these is Cheval Blanc, a chateau that is comprised almost entirely of cab franc and merlot. In fact, if you have seen Sideways, you remember Miles ranting about not drinking merlot. The wine that he drinks at the end of the movie- 1961 Cheval Blanc, is comprised of cab franc with a very heavy dose of merlot! The other famous wine from this area is Chateau Ausone. These wines are almost haunting in how good they are, and have price tags to match. Right down the road is a smaller appellation called Lussac-St. Emilion, which is a great place to get well made, bargain Bordeaux.
Pomerol is the other brother of St. Emilion, and is most famous for its top chateau- Petrus. Made mostly of merlot, this is regularly one of the most sought after, and expensive wines in the world. Only about 2000 cases are made, and only a few hundred make their way into the U.S. When I worked for a distributor in Boston, we had a bottle of 2000 Petrus, and sold it for $2000 wholesale. If you want similar-ish wines, but don't have the money, look for those from Lalande de Pomerol.
A third, lesser know area to get wonderful red Bordeaux is Fronsac. It is located to the west of it's big brothers mentioned previously, has the same sort of blend, and sometimes has some Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix. This results in a powerfully rustic wine that is fair priced.

That's enough for now- have a fantastic Thanksgiving, drink something good!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What this city needs...

You probably think that I'm going to give a solution to the poverty, racism, abuse of imminent domaine, and provel cheese that run rampant in this city. I'm not. Instead, I'm going to give someone the chance to make a million dollars. That's right, if you are an investor with a bunch of cash, just looking for the right idea, here it is.

My idea actually spurred from two different conversations. The first one was with a buddy of mine whose wife just graduated cosmetology school (that's where you cut hair, right?). We were talking about how it would be great for there to be a place in Clayton kind of like the Hair Saloon for Men, but kicked up even a notch. A place where a guy could go, get a haircut, a straight razor shave, and also where there would be big leather chairs, martinis, brandy, a library, tv's quietly showing sports or the news, etc. They would even be able to run tabs, and pay up once a month. I really think guys would pay for the chance to get a shave and have their shoes shined in a clubby atmosphere over their lunch hour.

The second conversation came when I went to go play pool with a neighbor of mine. Because we live in South County, our options were limited. The bar we ended up at was dark, dirty, loud, smoky, had crappy equipment, didn't take debit cards, and served Busch Beer. It's just not the scene I'm into anymore. I want a place where you can actually converse with the person you are playing pool against, don't leave smelling like American Spirits, and can buy a decent beverage.

So, here's the opportunity- Someone needs to open a place where you can do both. I'm talking all out- dark wood, leather, paintings of hounds chasing foxes, poker tables, cigar rooms, the whole deal. You could get that hair trimmed, or play a couple games of billiards. You could also get a glass of real beer. The place wouldn't need to serve dinner, but candied walnuts would be nice. I know this sounds like a country club, or like the Racquet Club on Kingshiway. The trouble is, most guys my age want this type of thing, we just can't foot the tens of thousands of dollars to join the aforementioned establishments. I would say that it should be an affordable place to go, without taking on the vibe of a sports bar.

Who's in?

Monday, November 23, 2009

What wine to bring?

It's that time of year. You have been invited to your sister's, Boss's, friend's, neighbor's, Church's, or some other relation's holiday party. Because you are a wine fan, and because you are polite in the Era of Mad Men sense of the world, you decide to bring a bottle of wine as a Host/Hostess gift. Aw man, now what? What do I bring? How much do I spend? What if I want to drink it? My friend, here are your answers.

First, determine if you want to drink the wine that night or not. If it is just a regular holiday party, and you want to make sure there's something good to drink, that's fine. Just hand the bottle to the host, and say something like "I figured we could pop this tonight, to see what you think of it." This should save you the frustration of bringing something you really want to try, and have it end up in the rack on top of their fridge. If you are going to a dinner party, one method is to call a few days before, and ask what the courses will be. Then mention that you would like to bring a wine to match one of the courses. This insures that they know that you want to open the bottle.

If you don't really care about opening the bottle or not, then there are still several things to take into consideration- How well do you know the people? Are they knowledgeable about wine? Are you really trying to impress them, or just be polite? Here are some scenarios:

-Your Nieghborhood Christmas Party- This is an easy one, especially if they don't know, or care much about wine. Bring somthing that is user-friendly, and doesn't cost you much more than $15 retail. Suggestion- Crios Malbec or Yalumba Shiraz/Viognier

-A holiday cocktail party where you know the host, but not many other people there- This one is tricky, since you want to bring something nice, but don't want to seem cheap. I advise that you go "off the beaten path", and bring something that even the wine geeks at the party will appreciate, but most people haven't heard of. You can still get there for less than $20. Suggestion: Altos de la Hoya Monastrell, or maybe Cantina Tollo Montepulciano.

-A party where there will be some reasonably knowledgeable wine people that know you. This is getting a little tougher. My suggestion is to bring Grower's Champagne. It will cost you around $40, and is delicious. Suggestions are A Margaine, Pierre Peters, or Rene Geoffroy.

-Your Boss's house for a dinner party. Two thoughts here- get something that has scored 90 points somewhere, just in case they are paying attention. My suggestion would be Snowden "Ranch" cabernet (It tastes better than Caymus, and is cheaper). Also, get something that isn't too well known, but is still nice. If they are just getting into wine, then something like Rombauer or Cakebread is a nice gesture, but the wines are bad for the price. If they are a little more knowledgeable then those types of wines might actually offend them. Another safe route is to go Grower's Champagne, as listed above.

I hope this helps a little. Whatever you bring, it will probably be appreciated. If they start laughing, saying things like "Oh my gosh, that is classic!" then just play along, and act like you meant it as a joke.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Craziness and Thanksgiving

For my throngs of loyal fans, I appologize for the spotty blogging this week. It has just been one of those periods where everything in life is going nuts. What do they call that? Oh yeah, life during the holidays! Speaking of, I wanted to address a major problem that many people have this time of year- What wine to drink at the Thanksgiving table.

There are a lot of articles about this very topic flying around right now, and I want to quell information from some of them, and offer some advice. First of all, know that a "typical" Thanksgiving dinner is very difficult to pair wines with. You have white meat poultry, sometimes ham, high acid dishes (cranberry sauce), sweet dishes (yams), buttery dishes (mashed potatoes), peppery dishes (stuffing), etc, etc, etc. My main bit of advice is to consider who you are bringing the wine for. Are you just wanting a wine or two that everyone will enjoy, knowing that you are the only "wine person" at the table? In that case, bring an off-dry riesling, and and some relatively inexpensive california pinot noir. These are normally user-friendly and can be found for less than $20/bottle. This will also help you cover Aunt Betty that only drinks white zin. Remember, when you are in a room full of non-wine people, they really don't care if the wine scored 97 points, was #27 on some "Top 100" list, or comes from a 1/2 acre vineyard from Chassagne Montrachet. Drink accordingly.

Are there going to be some wine fans at the table that know what they are talking about, but are still pretty relaxed about it? Once again, defer to some riesling (try Monchhof or Richter), and maybe some Cali Chard or Burgundy if you can swing it- there are good prices all around right now, especially for '04 and '05s. You can then throw a bottle of syrah in there for those that like the bigger stuff.

Are you friends with wine geeks that really care? Then go nuts- pair Gruner with the veggies (Try Huber "Hugo), a dry rose with some of the cranberries (I like Crios, or Gruet if you want bubbly), riesling with the yams, White Burgundy with the mashed potatoes (check out some of the lesser releases from Domaine LeFlaive), a Red burgundy or Oregon Pinot with the turkey, and some Rhone (Les Aphillanthes, or Guigal) with everything else.

Finish off the meal with egg nog with a good dose of bourbon or spiced rum, and you are guaranteed to sleep right through the Dallas and Detroit games.

Most importantly, remember that this really is a time to give thanks for all the blessings in your life- whether that be your family, friends, God, job, or just pretty leaves on the trees.

Cheers y'all, have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

French Class Cancelled

Due to unforeseen circumstances, French Class has been cancelled for today. Check in next Wednesday, as I will be going over Right Bank Bordeaux.

Sorry for the inconvenience.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's the next big thing?

I was having coffee with a friend of mine in the wine industry this morning, and we started talking about what the next "big thing" will be. Part of our job is to identify what will be popular in the next year or so, and make those items available to our customers, so they can make money off of them. I'm not really talking about what the uber-wine geeks want, but rather what the future trend will be for the typical person buying a bottle retail or a glass at a restaurant. In the early 90's, the trend was big, huge, buttery, high alcohol chardonnays. Then, merlot was the big thing. After that, Yeller Tail, and their bubble gummy shiraz hit the American conscience- everyone had to have it. That was followed by Pinot Noir. Some people say that this was because of "Sideways" hitting the movie theatres. I disagree. I think that pinot was on the upswing, and the movie just hit at the right time. Most recently, the hip things to order have been Malbec, which I still love and adore followed by wines from the 2007 vintage in the Rhone.

What will the next thing be? I don't know. The funny thing about each of these wines is that people started jumping on the bandwagon, resulting in a lot of really sub-par wines in the marketplace. For example, two years ago, it was really hard to find Pinot in the $15-$18 range at a retailer. Now, they are at 7-11. The same thing will happen with Malbec.

I would love to see people grab on to California syrah, there are some great examples out there. The same thing goes with zinfandel- they aren't all the fruit bombs of rocket fuel that were in the market a few years ago. Some people are saying wine from China. I think that's on the horizon, but not for 2010.

I just hope I learn what it's going to be before the next guy.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend...

This was a crazy busy weekend. Friday night, I worked as a sommelier for the Entre Upstairs portion of the underground restaurant scene. The theme this time was "A Fowl Affair", and everything had to do with chickens and ducks. I'm still amazed at what these guys can do with very little formal training, and small spaces to work with. Thoughts:

-I love the Clandestine Chef's take on White Castle burgers- I want a big bag of them for my birthday!

-People (me included) should realize when they are talking too much about a certain subject, and nobody else in the room gives a damn.

-Advil and Cava is a great combination to help sore joints.

-Sometimes, people in the restaurant service industry really hate their customers, and it makes me laugh.

Saturday night was the annual "In the Vineyard" event at Plaza Frontenac, to benefit the Edgewood Children's Home. A bunch of restaurants show up, and give out small bites, and local wine folks pour their wares. There are auctions to raise money for the home, and the ticket price goes to the charity as well. Thoughts:

-A HUGE thank you to my wife, and my friends Matt and Erin for helping me out. Even though there are other volunteers, you all were a great blessing!

-There are a lot of self-important, rich jerks in this town.

-I never thought I would try something like 2003 Harlan Maiden, and think "Wow, my palate must be getting tired, because this tastes like a lot of the other cabs I had tonight".
(Disclaimer- this is one of my favorite wines in the world. When you go to a wine tasting, you can only really taste about the first 8 or 10 wines you try. After that, palate fatigue sets in and it takes something with a lot of alcohol or acidity to stand out)

-The folks from Monarch, Niche, Acero, Herbies, etc can still cook in small portions- the food was amazing!)

-Canton liqueur is good.

That's it, folks- Have a fantastic week, don't let this bum weather get ya down. Tonight, I'm off to teach my class, and hit Dorm Room dinner at 33.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Get ready to be jealous

I have a great life- I married the girl of my dreams, My family is wonderful, I have a great circle of friends, I go to a great church, I own a beautiful home, dogs, and cars. I even have an I-phone. One of the things that my wife and I share a passion for is great food (duh, just look at me!). This week has been one for the record books. I have already waxed poetic about the meal I had on Monday night, but now I have another one to dangle in front of you and boast about.

Yesterday, I was walking through the Central West End, and ran into Gerard Craft. For those of you who don't know who he is, Gerard owns Niche restaurant (one of my favorite places in the world), as well as Taste in Saint Louis. He was one of Food and Wine magazine's "Top Ten Best New Chefs in America" a couple of years ago, and has been nominated for James Beard awards on a couple of occasions. The boy can cook. Anyways, Gerard asked me if we wanted to come to the friends-and-family night at his new project called Brasserie- it's a French inspired bistro. I, of course, accepted and immediately texted the bride of our new-found dinner plans.

The space is really cool. Where Niche is modern, Brasserie has more of a casual feel to it. They are still working out some of the kinks, but the vibe is cool- the type of place you can wear a tie, or a t-shirt and jeans, and be comfortable either way.

Let it suffice to say the food rocked as well. We had gougeres (cheese puffs), a country pate that was spot on, a frisee salad with some of the best damn croutons I have ever eaten, scallops that were cooked perfectly, roasted chicken that was also just right (not an easy task), short ribs that melted in your mouth, a delightful lemon tart, and a plum dessert with cognac ice cream that was to die for! Oh yeah, did I mention that the meal was FREE? We just had to give Gerard our criticisms (which I promised I would not post anywhere online) and honest feedback. We also tipped the server heavily.
I love that my career has led me to the point where I have friends that can get us into experiences like this- even if it does put us into a food coma, and make us buy bigger clothes.

This will be my second-to-last plea to have you sign up for my wine class on Monday. I'm teaching on Old World vs. New World wines at Ernesto's wine bar in Benton Park. The class starts at 6:00, should last less than 2 hours, and costs $20. Please come!

This weekend, check out the Nicholson Jones unoaked chardonnay. We drank some last night with the scallops, and it was killer. This wine should cost less than $20 retail.

Cheers- see you Monday!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

French Wine Primer- Left Bank Bordeaux

As promised, today we will take a look at the area of Bordeaux, in France, known as the "Left Bank." This is essentially the western bank of the Gironde river, which flows into the Atlantic ocean, and is fed by the Garonne (of which the western bank is also part of today's focus), and the Dardogne rivers. The left bank is broken into a couple of major regions- Medoc (composed confusingly of the Medoc and the Haut Medoc), Graves, Barsac, and Sauternes.

The Medoc is the furthest region to the Northwest, and contains most of the famous communes of Bordeaux. It is divided into Medoc (the top 35% of the area) and the Haut Medoc (the southern 65%). The wine coming from here is so historically important that we still use the classification of 1855. This was where the government classified the chateaux into four "first growths", fourteen "second growths", fourteen "third growths", ten "fourth growths" and eighteen "fifth growths". This classification was based on quality, and furthermore by price. The only change to this system was that in 1973, through a great deal of political influence and pandering to the market, Mouton Rothschild was moved from a Second Growth into the First Growth realm. Today, the First Growths (Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, Haut Brion- the only commune from the Graves, Latour, and Margaux) are some of the most sought after, and most expensive, wines in the world. The communes of the Medoc, moving from Northwest to Southeast, are: St-Estephe, Pauillac, St. Julien, Listrac, Moulis, and Margaux. These are the appellations that you will see on the label if you are fortunate enough to buy them. The grapes planted in the Medoc is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, and most of the wines coming from here have a large dallop of the grape.
As we move Southeast, we get into Graves, named for the gravel-based soil. The main region here is Pessac-Leognan, also composed mainly of Cabernet.

Confused? I was too at first. Just think of concentric circles- a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild is:
1. a Bordeaux
2. more specifically, from the Medoc
3. Even more specifically, from Haut-Medoc
4. Even more specifically, a Pauillac (The commune and the appellation which will be on the label)
5. Most specifically, from the Chateau Lafite Rothschild property.

At the southeastern end of the left bank are the areas of Barsac and Sauternes. The grapes grown here are more toward the whites, usually Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Most of the wines produced here are sweet, dessert wines that have been affected by botrytis. The most famous of these is Chateau d'Yquem, which is wicked expensive, but tastes like something we will be drinking in Heaven!

I hope this was informative. Go find a bottle of Haut-Medoc, and enjoy!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One single best bite

On Monday night, I had what was quite possibly the best single-bite dish that I have ever had in my life. An "amuse" is simply a one or two bite item, served by a chef at the beginning of a meal. The intent is to get your palate "primed" and ready to enjoy the meal you are about to consume. Most of you know that Monday night was Carnivorale, a One-Night-Only restaurant put on by some friends of mine that are amazing chefs. The 7 course meal was out of this world, but I want to focus on one bite- the first one.

It was a quail egg, cooked to perfection, topped with duck egg hollandaise, caviar, and shaved black truffles. One of the guys putting this on called it their "$20 spoonful", and he wasn't kidding. The cost of the ingredients alone was around that mark I'm sure. It was rich, succulent, a touch salty, and flat out delicious.

If I would have paired wine with it, I would have gone with Champagne. However, a spatlese level riesling was what was in my glass, and it did just fine!

Tomorrow, we study Left Bank Bordeaux.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend...

This last weekend, I worked at the underground restaurant ( as a sommelier on both Friday and Saturday nights. For those that thing being a sommelier is all fancy wines and great food, I would disagree. It involves lugging cases of wine up and down several flights of stairs, digging around in dirty basements to see what sort of inventory is really there, and getting pretty sweaty. Oh, and it comes with the added bonus of twisting your knee, and barely being able to walk the next day.
However, there is quite a bit of fancy wine and food involved, too- it ain't all bad! If you haven't been to one of the underground restaurants, you should check it out. This weekend was the first attempt at a more "fine dining" atmosphere, and I think they did really, really well. It wasn't cheap (ended up being roughly $150/person plus tip), but the food was amazing- it's crazy what those guys can do with lamb. The wine pairings were, ahem, pretty good too! I really like seeing people try something they have never tried before (this weekend, I rolled with Rivaner, a rose Cava, and even a white port), and really enjoying it!
Sunday, I watched Josh Freeman (former KC boy, and K State player) lead Tampa to a victory, and called my dad about the Wildcats beating the Jayhawks. No comment for you Mizzou fans out there. Oh, and I drank Bud Select after helping a friend move some furniture into my basement. (By the way, the friend also left a large portion of his gun supply and ammo. If you were thinking about breaking into my house and stealing my wife, my dog, or my wine, I would advise against it. We're even more heavily armed than before.)

Tonight, Carnivorale!
I really hope to see you there, it's going to be a great time! Undoubtedly my posts tomorrow will be a bit late, as I don't think this thing will get over until 2 or 3 a.m. This big boy will be sleeping in.

Have a great evening, and Cheers!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fort Hood, Redneck Moments, carnivorale

First and foremost, I want to say that my thoughts and prayers are with the families of those hurt and killed at Fort Hood yesterday. It was a senseless disaster.

On a lighter note, I had two simultaneous "Redneck Moments" this week, and I have been anxiously waiting for Friday to come, so I can tell about them. First of all, I was looking out the back window of my house on Monday evening. I saw that one neighbor who lives behind us was raking and blowing leaves in his back yard. He then proceeded to jump the fence, steal 4 or 5 pieces of firewood from the house next to him, put the leaves on top of them, dump gas all over it, and light the whole pile on fire. Now, I don't know if you remember, but there was about a 30 MPH wind that day. Not good.
While this was going on, my brother called me. He and his family live right across the street from our parents, and he is a veteranarian in the KC area. On sunday, our folks called him, and said that they were down the street where a deer had just been hit by a car, and he should go look at it. He jumped in his SUV, drove down there, and pulled up to see the police shooting the deer. He asked the officer "So, what are you going to do with that thing?" The officer told him that animal control was on the way, and it was their problem. My brother then talked to the animal control folks, and was allowed to take the deer home. He dressed, cleaned, and processed the deer while it was hanging from the rafters in the garage, resulting in 42 lbs of meat in their fridge. They even ate some of it that night.
Yes, my neighbor burns stolen wood with gas on a windy day, and my brother eats road kill. I definitely live in Missouri.

In honor of this, I'm recommending PBR as your drink of choice for the weekend.

Finally, check out
These are some friends of mine that are putting on a "one night only" restaurant this coming Monday. I know it's a bit steep, but the menu is awesome, and the wine pairings (done by yours truly) will be amazing as well. I really encourage you to go ahead and spend the money- it's going to be an epic evening.

See you there.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

French wine primer- Bordeaux part one

This is going to be a daunting task- breaking French wine into bite-sized pieces that are easily read on a blog. However, I will try.
When looking at France, it is tough to determine which area is the most important. Therefore, I will start with the largest fine wine region in the world- Bordeaux. Located in the southwestern corner of France, not far off the Atlantic coast, Bordeaux has roughly 15,000 growers that sell to wineries producing between 500 and 800 million bottles of wine annually. The are covered by Bordeaux is bigger than all of the wine growing regions of Germany combined, and nearly 10 times as large as the area covered by vineyards in New Zealand! The area definitely is affected by the maritime influence of the Atlantic Ocean (so much so that the name Bordeaux is roughly translated "along the waters"), as well as that of the Gironde river- which splits into the Dordogne and Garonne rivers in the middle of the area. These rivers basically split Bordeaux into three different areas- the "Left Bank", which is the area to the west of the Gironde; "Entre-Deux-Mers", which is the area between the Dordogne and the Garonne; and the "Right Bank", to the east of the Girone and Garonne. We will deal with each of these areas separately over the next couple of weeks.
Since about 80% of the wine coming from the region is red, that is what we will be focusing on in the near future. Bordeaux is essentially planted with 5 red grapes- Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. The most widely grown grape is Merlot, which is followed by Cabernet Sauvignon. Virtually all of the wines coming from Bordeaux are a blend of these grapes, very few being singular varietal. There are some white grapes grown there as well, most commonly Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Ugni Blanc. The bulk of the soil in the area consists of gravel, with the exception of the Right Bank, which is mostly clay.
Because of the detail involved, we will look at the Left Bank next week, and discuss the Classification of 1855.

In the meantime, go find a bottle of Bordeaux- your local retailer can help, and drink it. Specifically, get something from the Haut Medoc, or the Medoc. Then you will have a better understanding of our lesson for next Thursday.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Smoking Ban

This is less about wine, and more about a topic that has definitely chapped some hides in the STL area. Yesterday, a ban on smoking in most public places in Saint Louis City and County passed. The law will take effect on Jan 2, 2011.

My quick thoughts:
-Since I'm not a smoker, I'm glad this passed. I visit a lot of restaurants and bars for my job, and I don't like coming home smelling like an ashtray.

-There will be outcries about "they're taking away our freedom!" from the smoking population. This isn't true. You can still smoke, just not in certain areas.

-There have already been outcries of "This is the end of democracy". Nope. There was a democratic vote. Only 20% of the County's roughly 705,000 registered voters turned out. If you don't like the results, you should have voted. If you did vote, you should have gotten more people to vote on your side. For the record, I had to work yesterday, and didn't vote. Much like the Presidential vote, I accepted whatever happens (I did vote in that one.) That's the way a democracy works- the people decide. Right or wrong, we must deal with the choice.

-I hope this doesn't turn anyone off to reading my blog. If the ban wouldn't have passed, I would have said "oh well", and moved on with my life. I try not to put very many of my political or religious views on here. This just happens to be a big time vote in the STL restaurant scene, and would have been remiss not to bring it up.

So, tonight either celebrate, or drown your sorrows with a glass of 2007 Lockwood Block 7 Pinot noir. This is a new item put out by Lockwood, and tastes about twice what the price is. It should cost you around $20 retail, and is delicious.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Honey, can we make this for Thanksgiving?

This is the recipe for a "Russian Doll" style dish- basically a Turducken that is way, way over the top. I have no idea what wine to pair with this thing- maybe just Pepto. In fact, I don't know what about half of the things in the dish are. It sounds crazy though. This is taken from Schott's Food and Drink Miscellany, and the recommended cooking time is "Roasting for 18 hours".

Stuff a large olive with Capers and a clove.
Place the olive inside a bec-figue.
Place the bec-figue inside an ortolan.
Place the ortolan inside a Lark.
Wrap the lark in vine leaves and place inside a large thrush.
Place the thrush inside a plump quail.
Wrap the Quail in bacon, and place inside a plover.
Place the Plover inside a lapwing.
Place the lapwing inside a partridge.
Place the partridge inside a woodcock.
Place the woodcock inside a barded teal.
Place the Teal inside a well-hung guinea fowl.
Garnish the guinea fowl, and place inside a duck.
Place the duck inside a plump chicken.
Place the chicken inside a large, high pheasant.
Place the Pheasant inside a goose.
Place the goose inside a large turkey.
Place the Turkey inside an enormous Bustard.

Who's in? You bring the plover, the lapwing, and the barded teal. I'll bring the chicken, the duck, and the turkey.

Cheers everyone, have a great day!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Various Thoughts from the Weekend

From Friday Night (worked as sommelier at the Entre Underground Restaurant):
-It's amazing what the clandestine chef can do with such little resources.
-Sometimes solving a problem is as easy as looking around, seeing who isn't doing anything, and sending them to fix it for you.
-Pork Belly may be the end of me
-Just because you are about 118 years old doesn't give you the right to rudely interrupt a chef's verbal presentation of a dish. 3 times.
-Besides good wine, sometimes PBR is the right choice.

From Saturday:
-SoCo's Gyros are really, really good.
-Evidently, according to my friend, block parties are different in Missouri than they are in California.
-Allowing your 11 year old boy to dress up like a female hooker is disturbing, and just plain wrong.
-I have a neighbor that looks just like Gene Simmons with full makeup on.
-Dear ignorant other neighbor- when you piled burning embers in the middle of the street and caused a pot hole last year, I'm fairly certain that the same action will have the same result this year. That's why I snapped at you. I don't like my tax dollars paying for your drunken stupidity.
-The end of daylight savings time should always fall on a weekend that includes a block party- it makes getting up for church on Sunday much easier (I have to stay up late, and make sure that Dumb and Dumber don't burn my house down.)

From Sunday:
-Rams fans are very fair weathered. Folks, they won- quit complaining.
-Two sermons in one day can be a bit much.
-Dear lady at my tasting- Just because there was red wine in your glass doesn't mean it is tarnished, and can never hold white wine in it. Just rinse it out like everyone else does.
-Dear guy at my tasting wearing black jeans, red burgundy mock turtleneck, and black vest- NO.
-Veritas is a wonderful little business, run by great people. Everyone from Saint Louis that reads this should go there, look around, and buy something.

That's all I got for today. Regarding wine, if you can find it check out the Montes "Folly" Syrah- it is big, dark, jammy, and chewy. Great for a cold autumn night.

Cheers, and enjoy this weather folks!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Edition

I don't get it. Why do people go so freaking nuts over Halloween? I doubt if a large majority of the people wearing costumes and drinking/eating themselves into a diabetic coma have even researched the origins of Halloween. I typed "Origins of Halloween" into Google, and got back 1,670,000 results. (By the way, isn't Bing supposed to give you a more precise search? It gave me 5,880,000 results!) According to, my source for all truth and knowledge (kidding), Halloween started as a Celtic celebration marking the new year, and also the oncoming harvest and cold season. They thought that the lines between the living and the dead got a bit blurred on the night before their new year (which started on Nov. 1), and that ghosts would be running around. They would throw a big party, and dress themselves up in animal costumes. People who were freaked out by the thought of either dead grandma or Casper walking down their street would dress up like ghosts themselves, so as to blend in- kind of like when the living people acted like zombies in Shaun of the Dead. They would also put bowls of food and wine on their doorsteps to appease the mischievious ghouls. Later, the Pope declared November 1st as All Saints Day, and October 31 as "All Halloweds Eve", as an attempt to put a Christian spin on the celtic party. This later morphed into "Halloween".
Okay, I get that part, assuming it's somewhat accurate. How did we get from that to a holiday where many women think its great to dress like skanks, and kids gorge themselves on Pixie Sticks? Maybe I'm just bitter that I wasn't allowed to Trick-or-Treat when I was a kid, or maybe it's just that there's too many tempting bowls of candy and cupcakes to derail my current weight loss plans. It's not that I don't like Halloween. I just really don't care about it. My wife likes it, which is fine. When we have kids, will they go Trick-or-Treating? Sure, if they want to. Which brings up another point- after about 6th grade is too old. Middle schoolers and older should be able to buy their own candy.
If I sound grumpy, I'm not. Just confused.

Have a great day. Drink an Oktoberfest beer, and enjoy the weekend.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

French wine- part one

Since we have looked at Italy fairly thouroughly over the last several Thursdays, I will move on to probably the most important wine growing region in the world- France. When I was studying for my sommelier exam, I asked what would be the most important things to study. The response that I got from my tutor was "France, France, France, Italy, Italy, and America." Point taken.
The reason France is so important is multilayered. Not only does it have the history, but the impact of France on the rest of the world is undeniable when it comes to wine. A majority of the time, when people are talking about bubbly wine, they call it "Champagne". Almost every wine lover has heard of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone. French wine terms such as veraison, sur lees, and terroir are part of every wine geek's vernacular. We even argue over French vs. American oak treatments.
The French were some of the first people to develop an appellation system. Again, this is a government-regulated system that denotes specific areas in the country where specific grapes are grown for wine. The wines are then named after that area, and rarely the grape. In France, The system goes from Vin de Table (Table wine), to Vin de Pays (Country wine), to VDQS (Vins Delimites de Qualite Superieure), to AC (Appellation Controllee) in order of quality. Vin de Table wines are the simple, sometimes home made wines that are "everyday drinkers" in France. They are usually of low quality, and rarely exported. Vin de Pays wines are becoming increasingly more popular, as they have less governmental regulation, and can be produced fairly inexpensively. A large number of these are in the retail stores- some are really good, some are terrible. VDQS wines are basically those waiting to gain AC status, and account for less than 1 percent of French wine production. Chances are you won't see them at a store. AC wines are the big ones- these are the ones that the government controls such things as varietals, harvesting dates, sugar levels at harvest, winemaking techniques, etc. They are at the top of the French quality pyramid, and seeing "AC", "AoC", or "Appellation (enter region here) Controllee" is usually a sign of quality on the label. Note the use of the word "usually".
France is really broken into two major climate areas- the Southern portion is a sunny, warm, Mediterranean climate, and the north and western portions are more Continental- affected by the Atlantic Gulf Stream. France is the second largest country in the world, next to Spain, in regards to the amount of land being cultivated for vines, and is almost always in the top three countries for wine consumption per capita.
Over the course of the next several Thursdays, we will take a look at the different wine areas of France, and what they contain. It will be confusing, and full of funny words, but I hope you will enjoy it.
All this being said, go buy yourself a bottle of French wine (we aren't still mad at them over the whole war thing, are we?), and enjoy.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

short and sweet

In other baby news, my great friend Spencer and his dear wife just welcomed their firstborn into the world. I guess I'm at the age where all of my friends are having kids.

This blog is short and sweet today- evidently wednesdays are a busy day for me. When you are cooking Chili this fall and winter, try these two ideas- fry up some really small chunks of bacon, and add it to the chili for a smoky flavor. Also, instead of adding sugar, try a few glugs of red wine.

To drink with chili, we always like Port Cider- basically mix apple cider, port, cinnamon, and nutmeg, warm it all up, enjoy.

Cheers! Have a quality day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tiny little buggers

Today I'm going to talk about small things- Babies and aphids.

It seems like babies are falling from the sky in my immediate circle of influence. Congratulations to Jeff and JJ, friends of mine and owners of 33 wine bar- they welcomed their first child into the world on Sunday (which was also their anniversary). Also, a belated congrats to my friends Ashley and Brian (co-founders of Shhhh...), as Ashley is pregnant, and due next summer.

Now on to matters of science. Anyone who knows about my high school course of study knows that I have always been a bit of a biology nerd. That's why I can tell you what the Krebs cycle is in a cell, but can't tell you the difference between a 2-cycle and 4-cycle engine. This naturally leads me to be interested in the science portion of wine. That being said, let me introduce you to one of the enemies of wine, Phylloxera. This nasty, tiny little bugger just about cratered the world of wine in the 1870's. It is a tiny aphid, about 1/13 of an inch long that feeds on the roots of grapevines. Eventually, it sucks all of the necessary things that the vine needs out, and the vine dies. Much like the scourges on the earth that McDonalds and Survivor are, this pest originated in America. In the 1860's, it hitched a ride over to Europe on some vine cuttings (unbeknownst to anyone), and proceeded to decimate the vineyards over there. It literally destroyed the wine industry in France, Italy, and most of Spain. The reason that we didn't know much about it before is that American rootstock wasn't susceptible to this louse. Therein lied the solution. Over the course of the end of the 1800's and beginning of the 1900's, almost all of Europe was replanted on American rootstock, then the grapes they wanted were grafted on. Wineries in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa had to follow suit, as Phylloxera wreaked havoc there as well.

America wasn't totally immune. In the 1980's and 90's, a new form of this bug did damage in California, Washington, and Oregon. The problem was that we had planted a bunch of vines on a rootstock called AxR-1 that had ancestors from Europe. Americans thought that it would be resistant to phylloxera biotype B. They were incorrect. Since then, at a cost of almost $2B, we have replanted the vines here, and carried onward. One interesting side note- one of the only countries that hasn't really dealt much with Phylloxera is Chile. Many think that this is due to the sandy soils, which the louse can't move through.

Today, raise a glass of Glaetzer "Wallace" to our defeat over Phylloxera. This wine is made by a truly talented winemaker in Australia, is a blend of Shiraz and Grenache, and should cost you around $20 retail.


Monday, October 26, 2009

A congratulations, and a secret dinner

First of all, a big congratulations to Angela and Jordan (followers of this blog, and dear friends). They have been going through the adoption process, and their boy that they will be adopting was born yesterday. I foresee a congratulatory bottle of Champagne in your future.

Friday night, we had the October meeting of the Saint Louis Chapter of the Super Secret Double Probation Dining Club (Also called Shhhhh). It was a really fun, relaxed evening. Our theme was Mexican-inspired food, and here is the menu, along with drink pairings:

Homemade chips and salsa
Pairing: Sol, or Tecate beer, also Watermelon Agua Fresca

Shrimp and Mahi Ceviche
Pairing: "Paloma"- Tequila, Lime, Squirt soda

Street style tacos with roasted pork and homemade corn tortillas,
Grilled Corn with this awesome spicy mayo sauce
Homemade refried black beans
Pairing: More beer, margaritas

Ancho Chile and Chocolate creme brulee
Pairing: It started out being called "Peligro es mi nombre medio"(Danger is my middle name), but by the end of the night that had morphed into "Donde estan mis pantalones?" (Where are my pants?)- Patron XO Cafe, Creme de Cacao, Half and half.

It was a fantastic night, and we were really glad we went. I recommend you start a dining club too. Just make sure to invite me.

Cheers, and have a great day.

Friday, October 23, 2009


So, I'm grumpy today. Last night, buddy of mine and I went to Growler's in Sunset Hills to get a beer and a quick bite to eat. What I thought was going to be an $18 event has now cost me at least $300. This is because, upon getting to my car afterwards, we discovered that the back window had been broken out, and my Sip of Knowledge cell phone was stolen. Besides the fact that I am trying to save as much cash as I can for a project I am working on, it's just an irritation having to get the window fixed (right now, I'm totally riding hoosier style with syran wrap all over it), get a new cell phone, vacuum broken glass out of my car, etc.

At least the beer was good at Growler's.

Enough negative vibe- tonight we have a meeting of the Saint Louis Chapter of the Super Secret Double Probation Dining Club. That's right, you don't know about it...because it's secret. Are you jealous? Each person/couple cooks a course, and brings a drink to match it. I'm making a ancho chile bittersweet chocolate creme brulee, and pairing it with a desert drink that has Patron cafe tequila, creme de cacao, and cream. Now I know you are jealous! I will give a full report on Monday, with dishes that were made and drink pairings.

Have a great weekend folks.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wine Class Announcement

Hey friends,
I wanted to let you know that I will be teaching a class at the new Ernesto's Wine Bar. Here's the scoop:

What- Old World Vs. New World wines- I'm going to take you through 4 different varietals, and show you Old and New world versions of each one.

When- Monday, November 16, 6-8 pm

Where- Ernesto's Wine Bar- corner of Lynch and McNair in Benton Park

Cost- $20/person

If you have any questions, email me at


Italian wine finale- The Islands

We have gone through the main wine growing regions of mainland Italy- I skipped a couple of the minor ones that aren't as important on the wine scene. Today I want to talk about the two Italian islands- Sicily and Sardinia. Looking at the map, Sicily is the "ball" that the "boot" of Italy appears to be kicking. Sardinia is about 300 miles NW of Sicily, in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Sicily, the land of Vito Corleone, is an area that has suffered an image problem because most of the wine that comes from there is basically table wine. Probably the most famous wine from Sicily is Marsala- a sweet, fortified wine. It is made from mainly the catarratto, grillo, and perricone grapes, and gets its unique taste from oxidation. Most of the versions here in the U.S. are cheap supermarket brands, but the higher end ones can be really delicious. The only other wine of serious note from Sicily is Nero D'Avola (also called Calabrese). These are deep, dark, earthy, leathery, delicious wines. Try the Cantine Barbera, if you can find it at a retail store.
Sardinia is even more remote, and less important on the wine scene than Sicily. Because there have been a succession of countries that have ruled the islands, there are influences on Sardinia that are not only Italian, but also Spanish and Middle Eastern. The Spanish influence can be seen by the production of Carignano (the same as Spanish Carinena), a decent "grapey" wine. The main grape for winemaking in Sicily is Cannonau- think of low to medium range cali cab, and you have a similar taste profile.

Well, that does it for Italy. Next Thursday, I'm going to launch into the wine regions of France.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wine and movies

These are two of my favorite things. Obviously, you know that I'm a wine fanatic. However, I'm also a fan of great movies. I like the Indy-type stuff, and big budget stuff.
With that in mind, I'm going to offer wine suggestions for what to drink while watching some of my favorite movies of all time. I hope you enjoy, and your comments are welcomed!

Godfather 1 and 2 (not 3):
Obviously, something Italian. Because this is a long movie, no matter which one you watch, you need something to sip- not gulp. Because Vito Corleone is from Sicily, I'm thinking that's the best way to go. Red, not white, leads us to Nero d'Avola. Pick out a producer at your local market, this will be a medium bodied, easy to drink, inexpensive red.

It's a love story, a war story, and everything else. You need a wine that is rustic and complex, and also not to expensive (William Wallace despised all things of Royalty). I'm going to go with Boreaux, but not one of the big houses. Get a Bordeaux appellation, not one of the high-dollar guys.- probably made from mostly Merlot. Check out Chateau de la Taille, or Chateau Courlat.

Public Enemies-
My first inclination is to suggest whiskey, because that's what John Dillinger drank. However, the style of this movie calls for Champagne. Try A. Margaine demi-sec. The slightly sweet, sultrty bubbly will make you want to rob a bank, but do it in style.

The Hangover-
Don't drink anything serious, because it will likely shoot out of your nose when you laugh during this movie. You also need to consume copious amounts if you are staying in the vein of this flick, so start with an inexpensive white (Crios Torrontes), and then gulp down some inexpensive but good tasting red (Ben Marco Malbec).

This movie should charge you up, and make you want to shout your barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world. Drink a wine that is applicable- Tikal Patriota. Plus, when you are finished with the bottle, you can use it as a weapon to help bring down the Roman Empire.

Fool's Gold or Music and Lyrics-
Before you say anything, I'm listing these movies because they are some of the only "chick-flicks" that my wife and I can watch together without one of us complaining. Start with something light and easy to drink, maybe Mosel Riesling. Then move into something a bit more (but not too) substantial- how about some Oregon Pinot.

Star Wars-
We all have it memorized, so you can pay a bit more attention to the wine. Chateauneuf.

Raiders of the Lost Ark-
Again, you know the movie backwards and forwards. Maybe red Burgundy.

Red Dawn-
Gentlemen, this one is for you because theres a 99% chance that your wives will leave the room anyway. Nothing says "Wolverines" quite like big, bad, bold California Cab. Give Snowden or Nicholson Jones a try.

What do you all think?

Cheers- tomorrow we talk the Italian islands.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sip of Knowledge website up and running

If you have read this blog much at all, you know that I have started a side job as a wine consultant. My website is now up and running, please check it out:
I know there are a few kinks that need to be worked out (like getting the GoDaddy ads off of the top of it), but I'm really pleased with the outcome!

Today's suggestion- Take a breather, sip on a glass of Rutz Chardonnay, and check out the website.

Thanks y'all!

Cheers- and more to come tomorrow, busy day here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The misunderstood young blackbird

In the world of wine, there are kings and there are pawns. The kings are the grapes/wines that people clamor for- Cabernet, Barolo, Brunello, Red Burgundy. The pawns are those that people mutter under their breath, drink as a last resort, and make fun of- White Zinfandel, "Chablis" in a jug that was made from California, anything made by Yellow Tail, and Merlot. I want to defend the grape that is translated in french very loosely as "the young blackbird"- the fair Merlot.
Truth be told, Merlot held center court in the 70's and 80's as the wine that most people drank. It is easy to pronounce, fairly cheap to produce, and has user-friendly taste profiles of plums, cherries, tobacco, and mint. In fact, it is one of the 5 "noble grapes", and the most widely grown red grape in Bordeaux, and does very well in Southern France, Australia, South Africa, California, and Washington. Somewhere along the way, Merlot fell out of favor, and Shiraz took stage (followed by pinot noir and then malbec). There was even a scene in Sideways where Miles proclaims "I'm not drinking any f*&%ing Merlot!"- a proclamation that was later reversed when he is shown drinking a 1961 Cheval Blanc- a wine that is roughly 50% Merlot.
Miles's flip-flopping on merlot is something that a lot of wine fans do. They say they won't drink it, but show them a Cheval Blanc, Le Pin, Petrus, or Galatrona (all made from Merlot), and they will be the first to reach for a glass.
One of the good things that has happened with Merlot falling out of favor is that sweet, ubiquitous juice that was once the norm has all but disappeared. Producers have figured out that, if they are going to produce a merlot, it had better be pretty darn good.
In that spirit, I say you go out, grab a bottle of merlot (try Leese Fitch from California- good juice for less than $10 or something from Saint Emilion in France), and raise a toast to the misunderstood young blackbird.


Friday, October 16, 2009

My dream meal...

I texted my sweet bride this morning, and asked her what I should blog about today. Her first response was "The most fun you've ever had with your family". I don't want to bore people with a vacation story from Mexico where we ate good food, caught fish, and got sunburned. Her second response was "If you could eat anywhere in the world, with anyone in the world, what would that meal be?" This I like. I'm assuming money is no object, and that I need to pick people that are alive (hey, it might happen...who knows.)

The guest list:
My Wife
My Parents/Inlaws
My Brother, sister, and respective spouses (Sorry, nieces and nephew- kid free zone)
A couple of my good friends (I'm not naming names, so as to keep the peace. If you think you are at the table, then sure- I was thinking of you.)
Kevin Zraly, wine expert and nice guy
My old bosses, BA and Rick Moore
Ron White (because he's hilarious)
Tim Tebow (the best college football player of all time- I just want to hang with him)
Brittney Spears (just to see what would happen)
Matthew McConaughey (to keep the ladies distracted)
Bar Refaeli (to keep the guys distracted)
Anthony Bourdain
My pastor (just to keep things somewhat under control)

...I'm sure if I made this same list tomorrow, it would be different, but that's what it is for right now.

The Setting:
a couple of long tables overlooking a vineyard in France at sunset

The Chefs:
Each course prepared by a different chef, including Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, Stephanie Izard, Guy Fieri (yes, I'm serious- I actually want to meet the guy), Charlie Trotter, Gerard Craft, Josh Galliano, Kevin Willman, Chris Schlesinger, and a host of others

The Menu:
Each chef prepares two dishes- their "best" dish no holds barred, and their favorite dish to make. All dishes served family style. There would be copious amounts of beef, foie, truffles, cheese, duck, etc, etc, etc.

The Wines:
I wouldn't pair wine with each course- too restricting. Instead, Doug Frost would be there to serve and talk about:
Buckets of Champagne
plenty of different vintages of Mosel Riesling
lots of White Burgundy
lots of Red Burgundy
loads of Chateauneuf- ready to drink of course
gobs of Cabernet
Some Syrah
for dessert- Sauternes and a vertical of vintage ports.

That's it. It almost gives me heartburn thinking about it. See you there!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Italian Lesson Postponement

Due to traffic, Elvis sightings, weather, the economy, my dog, oversleeping, Big League Chew Gum, hangover, my grandma dying, the running of the bulls, facebook, getting married, bounced check, ninjas, Dan Quayle, the release of the 2011 Ford lineup, the World Series, the World Series of Poker, stomach ache, H1N1, getting a tan, vacation, and batteries running out, I will not be able to blog about Italy today.

Stay tuned tomorrow for what I'm sure will be a fabulous post.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm confused.

So you may notice that, even though I eat out a lot, I don't put a whole lot of restaurant reviews on here. The reasons for this are multi-fold: First of all, I don't know how to write well about food. I trust other local food blogs and critics to wax poetic about how good or bad a place is. I also sell wine to a lot of restaurants. If I gave my honest opinion about some of the places I sell to and the owner found out, I would likely be selling them much less wine! Finally, this is a wine-based blog, so that is where I want to put a lot of focus. If you ever want an honest opinion about a restaurant, just email me.
Once in a while I come across a place that I don't do business with that just prompts me to write about it. Such is the case when I went to lunch at Molly's in Soulard. This is the new project that Eric Brenner of Moxi semi-fame consulted on, that expanded into the space where the old Norton's was. I first walked into the bar on the right hand side of the building, where the "open" sign was blazing. This was at about noon, and the guy setting up the bar looked really perplexed when I walked in. I asked him if I could get lunch, and he just mumbled "no- you have to go to the other side." Nice customer relation skills. I walked through a really nice little courtyard, and right into a 1890's style parlor. The dining room was really nice, plush, and comfortable. This is where the confusion started. The bartender and waitress were dressed in t-shirts, jeans, and ballcaps. Not exactly what I was expecting, but whatever. I sat at the bar, ordered a beer, and looked at the menu. The bartender launched into a pre-rehearsed specials spiel, of which I understood about 40%, as she was talking so fast. I ordered a cup of gumbo and a shrimp po-boy. To say the service wasn't professional is an understatement. The waitress and bartender were snipping at each other, and at the cook, the entire time- in full earshot of the 6 other people eating there besides me. The food was okay, and that's it. The gumbo was underseasoned, and served lukewarm. The shrimp po-boy had a wierd consistency to the bread, not the crunchy stuff I have been served in a hundred better spots on their versions of the Cajun delight. The shrimp was cooked fine, but unremarkable. My beer was done half way through the gumbo, and the bartender never bothered to ask me if I want another. When I asked for my check, the same bartender slid the check holder all the way down the bar, hitting me in the arm, then laughed about it. Are you kidding me? The tab was $23, which seems a lot for a cup of gumbo, a beer, and a sandwich. I paid and left confused.
I'm just wondering why they would have sub-par service and food in such a great looking spot.

Speaking of wine, check out the Plungerhead Zinfandel. It has a cheesy label, and the name leaves something to be desired, but the wine is legit. Most any retailer in the area can get it for you, and it should be less than $20. Enjoy.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How long does wine age?

I get asked this a lot, and quite frankly the answer is tricky. According to Kevin Zraly, author/teacher/wine badass, only 4% of wine is meant to be drunk more than 1 year after its release, and only 1% can improve with more than 4 years age. That means, in it's most simple form, drink most of your wine now, and don't worry too much about it. Not a helpful answer, I know.
If you are looking to age wine, you must first determine what your goals are. Let's surmise that you have the wines that you want to drink in the next year or two taken care of, and you want to know what will age more than that. This depends heavily on the producer, the grape, and the vintage that the wine comes from. Some of your safest bets for really long term wines are ports, madeira, and sherry. The producers have already beat the tar out of these wines, and they will last indefinitely. I have drank madeira from 1898, and it was wonderful. Next, look mainly to Europe. This is because they usually build their wines to last a bit longer over there. I would loook into high quality Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Chianti, and Barolo if you want wines that will run the course. You do, however, have to look into the vintage. For example, 2003 was really hot in France. This means that the grapes were a lot riper and had more sugar at harvest. As a result, the wines are bigger, fleshier, and will drink better in their youth. Compare this to the 2005 which was a bit cooler year, and the wines will last a lot longer in your basement.
Other wines from across the pond that will do well with age are quality German/Alsacian Riesling (nothing in a blue bottle- drink that stuff yesterday), and some from the Loire (Coulee de Serrant, Quarts du Chaume). Many spanish reds, particularly from Rioja and the Ribera del Duero will go nicely for 10 years or so.
Finally, don't count California out. Some of these producers are finally pulling in the reins on their wines, and making cabs and pinots that will go a long time. As Americans, we tend to pop the cork on the newest releases way too early. It's okay, let that Pride Cab go for a few years, you will be amazed by the difference. If you still have some doubt, the best way to tell if a wine will age is to buy 3 or 4 bottles of it. Drink one now, one in a year, and one in 5 years. If you are keeping good notes, you will really see how the wine progresses. Sometimes you will be right, sometimes a wine will surprise you - and that's part of the fun!

Today is the day to go out and buy a bottle of port for the cold weather. Go find yourself a 10-year tawny from Taylor Fladgate, Dows, or Gould Campbell. Drink a small dram tonight with the wind and rain, and save the rest to sip on over the next few weeks. Delicious.